Coming of God: Christian Eschatology

Coming of God: Christian Eschatology

Coming of God: Christian Eschatology

Coming of God: Christian Eschatology

Synopsis

In this remarkable and timely work -- in many ways the culmination of his systematic theology -- world-renowned theologian Jurgen Moltmann stands Christian eschatology on its head. Moltmann rejects the traditional approach, which focuses on the End, an apocalyptic finale, as a kind of Christian search for the "final solution." He centers instead on hope and God's promise of new creation for all things. "Christian eschatology," he says, "is the remembered hope of the raising of the crucified Christ, so it talks about beginning afresh in the deadly end." Yet Moltmann's novel framework, deeply informed by Jewish and messianic thought, also fosters rich and creative insights into the perennially nettling questions of eschatology: Are there eternal life and personal identity after death? How is one to think of heaven, hell, and purgatory? What are the historical and cosmological dimensions of Christian hope? What are its social and political implications.

Excerpt

In the end is the beginning: Eschatology is generally held to be the doctrine of 'the Last Things', or of 'the end of all things'. To think this is to think in good apocalyptic terms, but it is not understanding eschatology in the Christian sense. To think apocalyptically means thinking things through to their end: the ambiguities of history must sometime become unambiguous; the time of transience must sometime pass away; the unanswerable questions of existence must sometime cease. The question about the end bursts out of the torment of history and the intolerableness of historical existence. To echo a German proverb: better a terrifying end than this endless terror.

Eschatology seems to search for the 'final solution' of all the insoluble problems, as Isaiah Berlin indignantly remarked, playing on the phrase used at the Wannsee conference in 1942, where the SS decided for a 'final solution' of the Jewish question in the camps of mass annihilation. Theological eschatology seems to present the 'Endgame' of the theodrama World History. This was Hans Urs von Balthasar's view, when he took over this title as a legacy from Samuel Beckett. If we look back to the history of eschatology, we see it pictorially represented as God's great final judgment of the good and the wicked, with heaven for the one and hell for the other. Is the Last Judgment God's final solution for human history? Other people have dreamed about Armageddon, the final duel in the struggle between Christ and Antichrist, or God and the Devil — whether the duel be fought out with divine fire or with modern nuclear armaments.

Eschatology is always thought to deal with the end, the last day, the last word, the last act: God has the last word. But if eschatology were that and only that, it would be better to turn one's back on it altogether; for 'the last things' spoil one's taste for the penultimate ones, and the dreamed of, or hoped for, end of history robs us of our . . .

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